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UI locks in on cheating

BY MARIA GIBBS | NOVEMBER 18, 2010 7:20 AM

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Students hoping to cheat on their online tests may be out of luck.

Professors at the University of Iowa implemented the computer testing program LockDown this semester, four years after its worldwide d├ębut.

The program, offered through Respondus Inc., displays the quiz or test in a special "locked-down" browser, preventing students from various ways of cheating.

Specifically, it restricts access to other webpages, applications such as Word, using screen capture, printing, using dual monitors, or exiting out of the application without submitting the test first.

"Online cheating is unchecked for the most part, so maybe [LockDown] is a step in the right direction," said Alex Clewell, a senior in communication studies.

Maggie Jesse, the director for Information Technology Services instructional services, said the program was tested over the summer, then offered on ICON for any teacher to use.

Elizabeth Guzman, the director of general education program in Spanish, has used the LockDown program for her Elementary Spanish exams this semester, and she is considering using it for the course final.

"We have saved class time to teach the language," she said. "Giving students more time to learn the language is wonderful."

Guzman has only implemented the program on classroom computers during class time, but teachers also have the option to have students take "locked-down" exams on their personal computers.

Arie Sowers, the director of marketing for Respondus, said that while she understands why students do not like LockDown, it's academically beneficial.

"Instructors have found it really easy to use, and lab technicians like it because it's easy to install," she said.

The UI spent $4,845 on the software, a price Jesse said was cheap and worth the cost. The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the Division of Continuing Education, and ITS each contributed to the cost. Now that the UI owns the program, it can install it on as many systems as needed.

Students said it can be tempting to cheat on online tests.

"I've taken a couple of online courses, and when you have the World Wide Web at your fingertips, it's hard not to cheat," said junior Brooklyn Colbert.

Student response has been mainly positive.

"I think it's fair if you're prepared and have had enough time to prepare," said UI freshman Natalie Leeper. "But I haven't noticed a lot of cheating."

Others are not too sure about the program.

"I don't think we should resort to having tests online," said UI sophomore Mike Marek, a business major.

Currently, 13 courses are using LockDown, and there have been 127 quizzes taken with program.
Guzman, who has administered four exams through the program, said it fulfills its purpose, and she is not worried about cheating.

In the spring semester, Guzman said she hopes to use LockDown in her Advanced Spanish classes. Currently, her Elementary Spanish I classes takes exams during class, but she said students in the spring will take tests on days the classes do not meet.

Assistant Dean Cordell Jeppsen, the director of technology in the Division of Continuing Education, said students currently take exams in rooms monitored by proctors, but the division hopes to have LockDown installed on laptops by the spring semester.

In addition to installing the online program, he said, Continuing Education will install cameras in testing sites to further prevent cheating.

"The whole issue is exam security," Jeppsen said. "We want to make sure the answers people put down on an exam are their own."


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